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National framework to build information and media literacy to be launched in 2019: S Iswaran

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The Government will bring all efforts to build information and media literacy for Singaporeans into a national framework, which will be launched by June 2019, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran revealed on Friday (Nov 2).

The framework, said Mr Iswaran, aims to enhance the digital literacy of all citizens, so “everyone can use digital technology and social media responsibly and safely”.

Apart from the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), the National Library Board (NLB), Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) are also involved.

The framework is among the non-legislative measures being rolled out to combat deliberate online falsehoods.

It was one of the recommendations made by the Select Committee which looked into the issue.

The committee, which released its report on Sep 20, had noted that public education on media literacy, as well as critical thinking, have an essential role to play in strengthening “individual defences against deliberate online falsehoods”.

Speaking at the Institute of Technical Education’s Service Learning Day, Mr Iswaran said the framework specifically seeks to align and strengthen public education efforts by providing a set of “content guidelines” to public agencies and other groups running digital literacy programmes.

He added that the Government is “studying closely” the precise form a fact-checking entity could take in Singapore. The development of trusted fact-checking initiatives is another recommendation made by the Select Committee.

“MCI and IMDA have already begun consultations with various stakeholders, and will continue to gather feedback and ideas,” he said.

PUBLIC EDUCATION AN “IMPORTANT ANCHOR”

In his speech, Mr Iswaran also stressed the importance of public education, describing it as an “important anchor in our strategy against deliberate online falsehoods”. He said that while legislation is one part of the solution, it is “not sufficient”.

“You and I remain Singapore’s first and most important line of defence against deliberate online falsehoods,” he said.

“If each and every citizen understands that not all online information is authentic, and has the capacity and confidence to discern fact from falsehoods, then, and only then, would Singapore truly be able to withstand this global threat.”

To nurture students who are responsible and ethical users of the Internet, Mr Iswaran also revealed that the Ministry of Education will be rolling out a New Media Literacies toolkit to all primary and secondary schools, as well as junior colleges.

This teaching resource will include lesson ideas, presentation slides and assessment items, to support teachers’ efforts to infuse New Media Literacies in their lessons. It will also include real-life case studies, such as Facebook posts containing falsehoods that have gone viral.

It will be rolled out from the middle of November.

Mr Iswaran explained that different segments of society have different needs and preferences, adding that MCI will continue to enhance its programmes.

For example, NLB's Source. Understand. Research. Evaluate. (SURE) programme raises awareness of the dangers of fake news, and how to identify it. The programme, which was launched in 2013, was recently upgraded to comprise three main thrusts: SURE for Life, SURE for Work and SURE for School.

SURE for Life educates the general public on the threats deliberate online falsehoods pose to the peace and stability of society, and the losses resulting from scams, he said. SURE for Work helps adults pick up trusted techniques to sieve out reliable sources of information at work, and SURE for School imparts information literacy and critical thinking skills through programmes for students and teaching resources for educators.
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